Oil thief burnt in sub-station

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A Harare man, Lovemore Garanewako, from Highfield, escaped death by a whisker on Monday after a Zesa sub-station he had broken into burst into flames and left him seriously scalded.

The incident, which occurred at about 11am along Birmingham Road, next to the BP and Shell fuel depot, plunged the heavy industrial sites into darkness.

According to an eyewitness, Garanewako was draining oil from a transformer in the sub-station when it burst into flames.

“There was a huge blast and when I turned to see what was happening, I saw a man emerging from the sub-station with his clothes on fire,” said Cornelius Karanga, a haulage truck driver at the fuel depot.

“He stopped after a few steps and took off his clothes while screaming for help,” said Karanga.
“At that point, I asked my assistant to take the fire extinguisher from the truck so that we could assist him, but another driver rushed to his aid before us. His head had caught fire.”

Karanga said there was pandemonium outside the premises as drivers rushed to remove their trucks from the scene, some carrying petrol, fearing that the trucks would go up in flames.

The fire was eventually put out by the Harare City Council fire brigade while a naked Garanewako, who was evidently in pain, sheltered inside the depot.

He was later attended to by a private ambulance crew who covered him in aluminum foil paper before rushing him to nearby Harare Central Hospital.

Witnesses said Garanewako was in the company of two other people who drove away when the sub-station burst into flames.

Most thieves who drain oil from Zesa sub-stations are believed to mix it with diesel and sell it to motorists at a much cheaper price, especially commuter omnibus crews.

Garanewako’s condition could not be ascertained at the time of going to print last night.